Sunday, February 21, 2010

Facebook vs. Blogs: Epistemological Questions for your Sunday

I've been thinking about Jeannine Hall Gailey's blog posting where she talks about why she likes blogs more than Facebook: "Facebook is like seeing a bunch of people at a party; a blog is like going for coffee with someone you're really interested in."

I see her analysis as exactly right, but with one caveat. Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with lots of people with whom I'd lost touch through the years (and yes, it's still probably more like a party than like coffee). At one point, I would have sung the praises of e-mail, because people will write e-mails, but not write/mail letters the old fashioned way. But these days, I've noticed that I keep in touch via e-mail with an even smaller number of people each year.

Facebook allows us to stay in touch, even when we only have time to write a sentence or two. I'll confess that some (most?) of my daily activities don't warrant a full e-mail. I don't want to write a long e-mail about how my life hasn't changed. I'm also interested in how people will choose that one nugget from the day to create the update. I'd expect poets to be good at this, but so are non-poets. It seems there's a poetry exercise in here somewhere.

I've loved blogs because I feel like I'm getting to know people, especially once I got bold enough to write comments and start my own blog. But now I'm also getting to know people through Facebook. When I first started my Facebook account, I thought that I'd only respond to Friend requests from people I had actually known. But I'm glad that I eventually gave in and BeFriended people whom I hadn't actually known in person. Just yesterday, I had 2 poems accepted in a journal that had a call for submissions from South Florida poets; I knew about that call for submissions because of a new Facebook friendship with a poet whom I've never met in real life.

Now I'm curious about whether or not these online friendships with people I've never met in person would survive a real-life encounter. I suspect they would. I think of the Miami Book Fair, and the fact that my house is only a county away, a thirty mile drive if the traffic is tame that day. I wonder about the wisdom of inviting these online poet friends with books coming out this year to send their press packets to the Miami Book Fair, and to look me up for coffee. That's not exactly an act of bravery. Could I be brave enough to say, "I'm near the major airports. I'll pick you up. You'll have a friendly face at the end of your plane ride." Could I be really brave? Could I say, "I have a guest room. Stay with me if you can't afford a hotel."

Here, too, is a difference between blogging and Facebook. With a blogger (the kind who writes a real post, as opposed to a collection of links, at least several times a week), I feel like I know people well enough to make some of those offers. I feel sure enough that those bloggers aren't secret, serial killers. It would take some kind of commitment to start a blog on the off chance that your serial killer plans would come to fruition. With Facebook, I'm not as sure that I know these new Friends whom I've never met in person.

Of course, I'm fairly new to Facebook, and I don't read/post there as regularly. Maybe in a few years, I'll change my mind.

And my inner Philosopher just needs to ask, "Do we ever really know anyone?" I think that I know these people I went to school with decades ago, but do I? They could have changed rather radically too. Or do we change that radically? Is there some essential Kristin-ness that was there when I was 9, there when I was 19, there when I approached the middle years of my life, that time and circumstance will never strip away?

O.K., I'll stop now. It's a nice normal Sunday in most of the nation: no blizzards howling in until tonight, no scary storms, perhaps the sun is even peeking through. Back to your coffee and breakfast foods. Back to the Sunday papers, which for the most part, won't trouble you with these epistemological and ontological questions (and big words that you have to look up! big words which perhaps I didn't even use properly! except that I did, because I doublechecked with my husband, who has an MA in Philosophy).

Enjoy your Sunday, whether you spend it reading blogs and/or Facebook, dreaming of the Miami Book Fair, wrestling with philosophical questions, or pondering theology, which once was a Sunday staple.


Terry Lucas said...

Delightful read, Kristin. I've wondered a lot of these same questions. Thanks for putting them into words.



Kristin said...

Thanks for commenting!